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At its home round at the Nürburgring in Germany, Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport experienced the tough side of racing. Factory riders Marco Melandri (ITA) and Leon Haslam (GBR) had top positions in reach once more but lady luck was against them. Marco crashed in both races. Leon, who is still suffering a lot of pain from his injured left shoulder, rode bravely to seventh in race one but also crashed in race two. Ayrton Badovini scored two ninth place finishes for the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet Superbike Team while his teammate, Michel Fabrizio crashed in the first race and had to pull out of the second.
Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport had difficultly from the beginning at the iconic race track which hosted the third from last round of the 2012 FIM Superbike World Championship. Leon finished Friday’s first qualifying practice in fifth on the provisional second row while ignoring a lot of pain caused by the injury to his left shoulder he suffered two weeks ago when he crashed in race two at “Moscow Raceway” in Russia. The pain also meant he could not ride as many laps as planned.
“This morning I had some problems with my arm, which was strange because the injury was quite okay all last week,” said Leon. “It was just a little sore, which is normal, but for some reason when I got on the bike this morning it was really painful. I had some treatment in between the sessions, and I then had some reaction on the tendon. It was difficult as the pain was quite bad but hopefully in 12 hours’ time it will be better. When I suffered the injury initially they thought it was just muscle damage, but maybe now it is the tendon that I have torn. This is something that I need to sort out.”
Marco qualified a provisional 12th. Marco had a crash in the early stages of the first qualifying practice when he lost control of his front tire. However, his BMW S1000RR was not significantly damaged; Marco was able to ride back to the garage and continued the session after his bike was checked by his crew.
“This was a difficult day for me,” said Marco. “In the afternoon I did not have a good feeling for the bike at all. This has never happened before this season. On top of that I had a strange crash in the first corner of my first flying lap. I had new brakes and did not want to brake too hard, so I went a little wide and crashed. Happily nothing serious happened to me or the bike. From then on my feeling for the bike was even worse. When we went for the softer tire, chattering came back big time.”
Ayrton Badovini and Michel Fabrizio of the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team finished 14th and 15th respectively. Ayrton suffered a crash at the end of the morning free practice at turn 11 but was unhurt and able to continue.
On Saturday’s practice sessions, both Team BMW Motorsport rides were faster than the day before. Leon was able to overcome the pain he was still feeling. At the start of Superpole 1, both riders went out on race tires setting the fastest and second fastest time. After four minutes, the session had to be red flagged due to a crash. After the restart both Marco and Leon stayed in the garage as their times qualified them comfortably for Superpole 2. In this second part, both riders went out on qualifying tires. While Marco topped the time sheets again with a temporary new lap record of 1:54.056 minutes, Leon crashed in the last sector and had to settle for 12th. In the deciding Superpole 3, Marco went out on his second qualifying tire and bettered his lap time to 1:53.912 minutes, qualifying third on the front row missing out on pole position by only 0.057 seconds.
Courtesy of a good last lap of 1:56.000, Michel Fabrizio was able to climb up to twelfth place in qualifying practice which put him into Superpole. Ayrton Badovini, on the other hand, was outside the top sixteen Superpole riders by just 15-thousands of a second and was the first of the non-qualified riders due to a small mistake in the last sector of the lap. Michel finished 13th and therefore couldn’t go any further in the session. His 1:56.290 lap-time on qualifying tires was not enough to stay in the top-12. Michel would start the races from the fourth row of the grid.
World Superbike fans were set up for exciting races. The three top riders fighting for the championship all qualified on the front row for the races. Marco, the current WSBK series leader was third on the grid behind Max Biaggi (ITA) and Tom Sykes (GBR). It would be a tight finish to the championship with three rounds remaining and a maximum of 150 points available.
At the start of race one, Marco lost two positions but soon had fought back to his initial third place. For the following laps he was close behind leader Max Biaggi and Tom Sykes but his fight for the top positions ended on lap six, when he lost control of the front of his BMW S1000RR and crashed entering turn eight. Leon, who started from 12th, fought through his injury until the checkered flag. He temporarily rode in fifth position but in the closing stages of the race he had no more power to attack and finished seventh. In the first half of race two it seemed as though the team was back on the road to success. Marco had improved to second after a just few corners and took the lead on lap eight but on lap nine he suddenly lost the front again and crashed. Leon made up four positions at the start. After he had slipped back to ninth after a small mistake he fought his way back up but crashed one lap after Marco. He was taken to the Clinica Mobile where initial examinations fortunately showed that he had suffered no major injuries.
“Today was my first time getting a double zero,” said Marco. “It was two different races, but with the same result. I am very disappointed for the team that is working so hard. In race one I struggled a lot with the rear grip and was losing a lot compared to the guys in front of me so I was trying to catch them in braking. I was braking very hard every time but in corner eight I took a bump and just lost the front. I don’t know what caused my crash in race two yet. I was on the straight and lost the front. That was strange. Now I will recharge my batteries and fight back in Portugal.”
Race one didn’t last long for Michel Fabrizio, who had a spectacular high-side during the opening lap at turn two. Despite the big crash, the rider from Rome came away unhurt. Ayrton Badovini made a good recovery after starting from the back of the pack and finished ninth. Good luck was not on Michel’s side in race two either as he was forced into early retirement at the end of lap eight because of vibrations at the front that he had experienced from the start of the race. Ayrton, after a difficult start, made his way between through numerous opponents and again finished in ninth position, after battling with Loris Baz for the eighth place in the last part of the race.
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